True Wealth is “Funded Contentment”

Last month at the CFA Wealth Management conference, I moderated a session for my friend, Brian Portnoy. Brian is a scholar, an author, a teacher, and is currently the Head of Education for Magnetar Capital. His second book, The Geometry of Wealth, begins with a primer on what it means to be truly wealthy. Brian defines wealth as “funded contentment”. The first shape in The Geometry of Wealth is a circle because, as Brian notes, the process of knowing oneself is never-ending.

Every time I talk to Brian about this subject, I learn something new. In this conversation for our mini podcast, The Compound Show, Brian pointed out that the mere pursuit of financial goals is also a hedonic treadmill trap. And while goals-based planning is important, it is crucial to avoid the behavior of checking off boxes on financial goals. Because, what happens after you’ve achieved every goal? You don’t end up in a state of nirvana.

Here is my conversation with Brian from earlier this week. We only scratch the surface on the link between money and happiness – a topic that continues to bounce around in my head as I advise clients. If you like this episode, be sure to subscribe to the Compound Show on Alexa or on your podcast app of choice.


Brian Portnoy, Ph.D., CFA, is an expert at simplifying the complex world of money. In his two books, The Investor’s Paradox and The Geometry of Wealth, he tackles the challenges of not only making better investment decisions but also how money figures in to a joyful life. Here’s my conversation with Brian about The Geometry of Wealth, whether money buys happiness, what makes people truly content, gratitude, and financial planning and goals.




1:15 Being wealthy isn’t the same as being rich
1:28 “I think of wealth as the ability to underwrite a meaningful life” (AKA funded contentment) – Brian
1:54 Blair on meeting goals – what she tells clients
2:20: “It’s not about making more – it’s about focusing on the goals” – Blair
2.35 Beating the market has become a cultural phenomenon, but it’s irrelevant to meeting your goals
2:53 Hedonic adaptation: wherever you get, you then want more
3:20 Should I take my two-year old to Paris?
3:35: Two kinds of happiness: experienced happiness (in the moment) and reflective happiness (memory – “the step-back”)
4:50 Distinction between pleasurable life and meaningful life
5:15 Blair’s pro tip for Paris travel: how to skip to the front of the line at the Mona Lisa
5:40 What has Brian learned about gratitude?
6:15 Just saying “thank you” makes us feel better psychologically and physically
7:00 Does money not buy any level of happiness?
7:45 A higher salary doesn’t make a big difference for gaining more experienced happiness (your day-to-day)
7:55 Going from $100k to $1M to $10M doesn’t alter your emotional set point
8:30 The Geometry of Wealth – how do you afford a life that will make you happy?
9:00 You need to calibrate purpose and priorities – you need a plan (where financial advisors come in)
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